The Pittsburgh Steelers’ secondary is slowly getting healthier. FS Minkah Fitzpatrick and CB Levi Wallace are expected to return this weekend with CBs Cam Sutton and Ahkello Witherspoon possibly joining them. By the team’s Week 8 against Philadelphia, there may be another returning player taking the field. Safety Damontae Kazee.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Kazee said he hopes to be cleared to practice by this time next week.
“I’ll probably be cleared for next week,” he told The Trib’s Chris Adamski.
Kazee also told Adamski he was “close” to a return. Of course, that means Kazee will not begin to practice this week. The best chance of his 21-day window opening seems to be a week from today, October 26th. Still, while he may be cleared to practice, the team will have up to three weeks in order to activate him off IR. With a bye week following the Eagles game, the team could choose to wait until Week 10 to activate him. Kazee will have to prove his football conditoning before fully returning to the 53-man roster.
Signed hours after the draft, Kazee impressed in training camp with his versatility and hard-hitting ways, looking healthy two years removed from an Achilles Tear. Pittsburgh was using three-safety packages to incorporate Kazee onto the field. Here’s what we wrote about Kazee following the summer:
“Undersized but packing a mighty punch, Kazee is the same dude I watched at the Senior Bowl coming out of San Diego State. Absolutely fearless. He played the run hard and had some monster collisions, including welcoming Calvin Austin to the NFL with a blowup hit on a RPO slant. Kazee shoots low as a tackler and he’s prone to missing but when he gets around the waist/knees, he can take down players twice his size. He made a couple of quality sticks on tight ends, including a fourth down stop of Jags’ TE Evan Engram.”
But he suffered a wrist injury making a tackle in the preseason and was placed on IR ahead of the team’s season opener. Tre Norwood has served as the team’s primary backup at both safety spots while Miles Killebrew and Elijah Riley have also logged limited snaps.
Kazee isn’t the only IR player who could soon return to the lineup. Rookie wide receiver Calvin Austin has practiced for the last two weeks and it’s possible he’s placed on the 53-man roster ahead of Sunday night’s game against Miami. Pittsburgh will have until next Wednesday to make a final decision on him either activating from IR or keeping him there the rest of the year. Of course, T.J. Watt’s expected return isn’t far away either. Reportedly, he’ll suit up for the team’s Week 10 game against the New Orleans Saints.